Ritger Memory: A look back at the main moment in the history of the PBA Tour

At the end of 2018, 20-time PBA Tour champion and bowling coaching legend Dick Ritger, who died Aug. 27 at the age of 81, spoke to International Bowlers Journal Editor Gianmarc Manzione about getting a face-to-face chair to Johnson’s 299 as the person -his challenges in the title. matches of the 1970 PBA Firestone Championships, voted # 1 in the Biggest 60 Mom poll in 2018. He still had fond memories of the moment he lifted Johnson off the ground after the final shot. aige. And much more. Here is that conversation. . .

As the man who finished second, you had a front-to-back seat to the point that was voted # 1 on this year’s PBA’s 60-minute greatest list, which Don Johnson had 299 in the Firestone title game 1970. You were basically scratching Johnson off the floor after he fell after his famous last shoe. Looking back on that experience now, what stands out to you?

The fact that Don didn’t carry that 10-pin, because he wanted a $ 10,000 bonus plus a new bonus [Mercury Cougar]. For us in bowling at that time, that was value for money. I felt sorry for Don, because he got that close and didn’t get the results. When he dropped that last picture I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a good picture.’ But maybe the distance was only a short distance away, which is why he folded the 6 around the 10. I picked it up after it fell to the ground, and I don’t remember if I said nothing, but I just feel so bad for him.

I shuddered over this same phrase in the story of Mort Luby Jr. when talking about your physical appearance on the 1970 Firestone show, he wrote, ‘Ritger wore bright gold bowling shoes and a knit jacket that made him look like a big-game hunter from an old Stewart Granger movie. “

The gold boots were shoes before I got on the tour when we bowled on a team in Milwaukee and the fan bought gold shoes for the archers on that team. So those were my comfortable shoes. I kept wearing them after Milwaukee and went out on tour. I was wearing them everywhere all the time. The jacket, that kind of shirt, I bought specifically for that show. It was just a different kind of scene. I was thinking, ‘Well, I look better than just the usual league bowler here. ‘

You and Johnson threw 12 consecutive strikes in a row to open that title game. That must be the real adrenaline rush for you, Dick.

Yes, but the point is when your opponent is doing very well you know you have to try to match him and stay even as long as you can to get a chance to win the game. Once I broke the string when I left that strong 4-pin, I knew inside myself that Don was going to keep going because it was locked inside. Both of us were, to some extent.

You mentioned the monetary value of that winnings that Johnson would get for firing 300. The first $ 25,000 prize at the 1970 Fireworks is the equivalent of $ 160,000 in 2018 money. such a deal for you guys on a trip back then?

That was a lot of money. I mean, that figure that you gave me, $ 160,000 in today ‘s money, that $ 25,000 was big money for us then. At the time, if we won $ 3,000 or $ 4,000 in competition back then, that was good money. So winning 25 grand was huge. It was huge.

Don had an incredible run in the flint. Between 1967 and 1971, he did the show just five years ago, finishing second place twice and actually winning in 1970. Why do you think it was almost impossible to beat at Riviera Lanes in that period?

I think his game, his style and his release, fit the surface of the lines there. However, he still had a very good skill, and seemed to perform better under the pressure of heavy competition.

Billy Welu continued to mention throughout the telecast that, in reality, the weight of the bowling bowl must become extremely heavy for the mattresses due to current pressure.

Well, you don’t feel pressure, but you feel like it’s something different, because, at the time, that was such a big competition. He was basically a ‘principal.’

For all your praise of Johnson’s abilities, which was obviously awesome, the story of Mort Luby Jr. about the incident in the May 1970 issue of BJI noting that Johnson himself spoke largely about his own abilities. Was that the Don Johnson you knew?

Absolutely. He was kind of very soft-spoken. He never argued about how good he was. He was just going around doing his job, and he was very well done.

How hard was it for you to shoot 768 in your three games on that 1970 Firestone show, taking 268 in the title game of the richest tournament on tour, and lose it anyway?

Well, that’s the fun. It’s just like any other sport. You may have a good day in your sport, but someone else is still hitting you because they were better at the time. I did what I could, but at the 1970 Fireworks, Don was just better. You have to accept that.

The feeling of the Firestone was wonderful; there was so much demand for tickets to that 1970 show that, in 1970, scalpers demanded $ 25 per ticket. I don’t think anyone today could have imagined that a lot of fans were scrambling out for a $ 25 ticket to get in the door. What was it about the Firestone, and about that time, that created such an aura around that competition?

Well, back then, bowling was very popular in general, and after Eddie Elias got the PBA going, from the first day of certification you would walk in and know that it was a good thing between different from just a bowling league. For us, and for people who came to see it, it was a lot of fun. It was great for them because that was their fun as spectators. They were happy to be around him. It’s just like I could go to the Green Bay Packer game today and be right on the field and watch and engage, I would be honored to be able to do that. do because I am a fan or professional footballer and especially the Packers. It would be great to get close to the athletes. That’s how it was back then; people were able to walk into the bowling alley on the first day of commissioning and rubbing elbows with their favorite athlete at a time when we were on network TV every week.

Why did Johnson cancel the tour in 1978? Did he go into coaching at that level like you did?

Every athlete in every major sport knows that there is a time when you can’t perform at the level you once did, and when that starts to disappear you know that the time to say, ‘Okay, I had a great run. Now is the time to do something else in my life. ‘I think he understood that.